ICA dissertation award for Ericka Menchen-Trevino

At the 2013 annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) in London, ERMeCC researcher Ericka Menchen-Trevino was awarded the prestigious dissertation award of the ICA’s Communication and Technology division.

Ericka Menchen Trevino received her PhD in August 2012 from Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois) with a dissertation, entitled Partisans and Dropouts?: News Filtering in the Contemporary Media Environment. In September 2012, she joined Erasmus University’s Department of Media and Communication as an Assistant Professor.

Dissertation abstract:
Today’s new communication technologies provide countless choices of what to watch, listen to and read. It is easy to imagine that individuals with very different preferences such as liberals and conservatives, or people who enjoy politics and those that prefer entertainment, may share few if any common experiences of media, even if they live in the same area and vote in the same elections. Are people who are interested in politics constructing personalized media environments, reinforcing their preexisting beliefs? Are those with less interest in politics insulating themselves from political information? Are digital media enabling users to construct these environments better than other media technologies? The answers to these questions have far reaching implications. However, empirical research has produced mixed results, with some research supporting and some challenging the selective exposure hypothesis that people choose political information that agrees with their prior attitudes.
News consumption is often part of one’s daily routine. In this research, political interest played a very important role across media in shaping the active selection of political information and the formation of routines among participants, while partisanship’s role was less prominent and multidimensional. Active avoiding of specific types of political information did occur across participants of all interest levels, particularly when it was connected to conflict avoidance. However, some had different attitudes about online and offline political conflicts. The role of the web in election information consumption was limited for most, but in several cases the web narrowed the information gap when participants sought last minute election information. Despite partisanship’s small and complex role in political information selection, it was an important factor in election information processing, as participants recalled more information that favored their preferred candidates.
This study was conducted during the 2010 election campaigns in Illinois and used a quota sampling technique to select participants with a range of political interest levels. I co-created a web application called Roxy to log participants’ real-world web content, including the full HTML text of the content they retrieved. This application facilitated a multi-method approach to research questions about what people did online and why.

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